STITCH LINES...... Ramblings on life as a quilter, stitcher, traveler, gardener and lover of books, cats and fine chocolate....

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Just Czech-in' In

Sunrise, somewhere over the Atlantic
Dobrý den! (That's Hello! in Czech.) Just wanted to "Czech in"  and let you know we have arrived home safe and sound... a little jet-lagged and Laura is having some trouble with plugged ears but otherwise we're none the worse for wear... My own bed and shower sure felt good last night! Once I get some laundry done and no doubt grocery-shopping, I hope to do another post with more photos - Prague Castle is next, I think. So "czech back" later today... This photo is actually taken on our flight over, not back - we weren't lucky enough to get window seats coming home...

Peace,
Linda

Travel: leaving with a suitcase full of stuff, returning with a dozen suitcases full of memories...



Monday, July 29, 2013

Na shledanou from Praha!

Well folks, we're down to our last few hours in beautiful Praha. I'm glad that I've been able to blog as much as I did, I expected less. However I still have lots to tell/show so I'll be adding a few more posts once I'm home. We are "in transit" all day tomorrow- it will be a long tiring day, plus a five hour time difference for us so there'll be no new post tomorrow for sure... However, stay tuned for more on Prague and the Czech Republic. I have had a few minor issues with my camera, related to the fall, I'm sure, as it crashed to the ground as hard as I did. Laura noticed the crack on it's bottom which I had missed.. so it will be "going in for a thorough check-up", poor baby. I sure hope it's nothing serious; it refused to take photos yesterday, but seemed okay today...so who knows...?
It's raining here tonight - first rain we've had.. at least it kindly waited til we were finished our stay. We're hitting the sack soon, as it will be a very early start, so for now, Na shledanou from Praha!

Peace,
Linda

People don't take trips, trips take people.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Random Thoughts and Cobble Walks...

Plain "checkerboard" (or Czech-erboard?) strewn with rose petals after a wedding
After being in Prague now for 9 days, here are a few of my observations (and random street photos):
1. There is lots of inspiration here on the streets for quilters. Literally. ON the streets. The cobblestones are laid in patterns that any quilter would recognize.. four patches, square in a square, split ninepatch, etc. People look at me funny when I stand and take a photo of just the sidewalk - see what I do for you?
2. Cobblestones, charming as they sound and pretty as the patterns may be, are not easy to
In Wenceslas Square
walk on. When they tell you to bring sturdy walking shoes, believe it!! Your feet and legs tire so quickly as they are uneven and hard (the cobblestones, not your feet!) They are hard to fall on too. I speak from experience. I fell flat on my face on Wednesday afternoon, coming down from Prague Castle. Both my camera and I smashed to the hard stones with great force. I landed primarily on my forehead, just above my right eyebrow, also my right
Plain old cobble - uneven and dangerous
shoulder and knee. Grazed my forehead, shoulder, chest and
knee, and a lovely goose egg started to immediately swell on my forehead. I made my way to a nearby Wine Bistro and they kindly gave me an icebag which I sat with, held to my forehead for about an hour. Long story short- the grazes are healing, and the forehead did not swell or bruise much at all because of the swift application of ice. My right eye socket however, both above and below my eye is turning all sorts of beautiful shades of purple, burgundy, and I'm sure the blues, greens and yellows will follow. I am wearing large
 sunglasses as much as possible because people are staring, assuming, I'm sure, that I've been abused or beaten up... I've never had a black eye before, so I guess Prague is as good a place as any to try it out... At least I don't know anyone here... And I am saving time and money - only have to apply liner and mascara to one eye! You can bet I am walking very carefully now (not that I wasn't before!) Slowly and with each step carefully placed. That's my plan.... I cannot see how  the Czech women can wear high heels and not break their necks! And I've been told they are even more treacherous in the winter as they get very slippery.
3. Speaking of walking, walk lights are not long enough. No dawdling on crosswalks in this city if you value your life... It's only been a few years that laws have protected the pedestrians and drivers must stop at the white crossing lines, but many of them seem to delight in seeing how close they can come to those white lines... NOT a good place to jaywalk either.... Even the Czechs are very careful crossing streets....
At the Castle Gates

4. Czechs love their dogs. We see many on the streets, being walked by their owners, or riding on the trams, carried in appropriate sized totebags. Smaller dogs seem more common, with the favourites seeming to be Yorkies, Llaso Apsos and Dashchunds, but we have also seen large dogs with their muzzles caged. I have not seen ONE cat (and I've been looking!)  Miss you Ollie!!




Stars and Crosses!

5. European toilet paper has not improved since I was last in Europe many years ago.The hotel stuff isn't bad, but what you find in a public toilet borders on a cross between our lowest grade of commercial paper towel and perhaps a fine sand paper. Dreadful stuff. Good to always have a Kleenex or two in your pocket....
6. Overall, the Czechs are very nice people. They are helpful if you ask a question, particularly if you make an effort to speak even a word or two in Czech. At least knowing how to say Hello, Please and Thank you goes a long way and they are willing to use their basic English (which is always far better than our Czech!) even though they will tell you they only speak a little English.
Here is one example of their kindness - On Friday night I sat alone in a restaurant (haven't had many meals this week with Laura). I was so hot and tired, (temps have been in the 30's all week) and was just sitting with my head down, waiting for my meal to arrive. I suppose
my black eye was visible. There was a middle aged couple at the next table and they must have overheard me speaking English with the waitress. The lady came over and said I looked "all alone" and asked if I would like to join them for a drink at their table. I felt bad saying "No thank you", but I was just too tired and hot to make pleasant conversation. I thanked her and assured her I was alright. But how kind of her... I'm sure she thought I was an abused wife...
7. It seems most people here smoke. What a shame... Let's hope they get a handle on that soon. There are cigarette butts on the streets everywhere. They lodge nicely between those cobblestones...
8. The heat has been constant with temps climbing each day. It is currently 3 p.m. and 37C (98F) with only 35% humidity and 2km/hour "winds". Uhhh, that's non-existent "winds"... It's supposed to be 39C by 5pm, but I guess that's better than the 40C they were predicting yesterday.... I am not complaining as we have had sunshine each day, and I know those at home are suffering through way too much rain, and even flooding. But I'm now sure I could never live in a place where the heat is constant for weeks or months. It is just sapping
You can even see the patterns from above.... taken from Old Town Hall Tower
my energy and sucking me dry... Bottled water here is more pricey than beer, and is never really cold, only cool at best. After you've carried it for 15 or 20 minutes it's as warm as you are. Hardly thirst-quenching....
9. They say "Absence makes the heart grow fonder", and "A trip away always makes you appreciate home more".. well I'd say Yes both of those are true, and although I have loved every minute of being here in Prague (well, except for that short time on Wednesday afternoon), I must say I AM looking forward to smooth pavement, free cold water and a good tall glass of real cold milk!!
And yes, the AC will be nice too...

Crazy Patch! Okay, this wasn't on the street, but in a Mall.


Peace,
Linda

"Who lives, sees. But who travels, sees more."
~ Unknown














Saturday, July 27, 2013

Old Town Square and Praha from above


I'm getting a little behind on the blogging. My main purpose for doing this from Prague was not only so that you can follow along on my adventures but also to serve as my Journal, as I am not keeping a written one- no time to do both... As I have already mentioned, the Internet connections are often iffy and uploading of photos takes forever, some nights. Other times it is pretty good... so I'm just doing the best I can with what energy I have left at the end of the day (and usually it's minimal!!)








After the Photo adventure on Monday, I was bushed. The walking and the hot sun were beginning to catch up with me, so Tuesday was a bit of a slower day. I knew I could not keep up this brutal pace we had set the first four days... I headed over to Old Town and going up the Old Town Hall Clock Tower for the view was number one on my list.









Old Town Square, "Staromêstské Námêsti",
(yes, we are even learning the Czech pronunciations of these places!) is one of the busiest parts of Central Prague; I'd call it one of "The Big Three" (Prague Castle and Charles Bridge being the other two.) It is a very "happening" spot with lots to see and do so it's always crowded with tourists. Of course the Astronomical Clock is the big draw- the crowd deepens significantly just before the hour when it puts on its show. But there is lots more to draw your attention in the Square.





The Church of Our Lady before Týn (pronounced teen), above left, with its black gothic towers is truly a landmark, as are the Baroque Church of St. Nicholas and the Rococo Kinsky Palace. But there is also the large Jan Hus monument, (first photo above) and a ring of houses around the square with architectural styles to blow your mind. You name it, it's here- Rococo, Baroque, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Art Nouveau... Many buildings are hotels, cafés, galleries or shops, some more worthy of a look than others. There's even a Chocolate Museum with various unmentionable body parts made of chocolate. (No I haven't been there yet, but I will... not for the body parts, just for the chocolate!)

There are also the "food carts", offering everything from the famous Prague ham or sausages to sweet treats like palačinka (called pancakes, but we would call them crêpes) to trdlnik. The palačinka are filled with your choice of fillings - ham and cheese, chocolate, etc. (Which do you think I chose?) It was so big, I couldn't finish it... I had a great chat with the young lady while she made my chocolate-filled treat..she had lots of questions about Canada...

You can find a variety of options to take you on a tour, including horse and carriage, bicycles, segways, or a bicycle bar pedalled by the 6 (embibing) riders. {Note to self: Give these guys a wide berth.} Sorry - no photo...






There is always music to be found- from string quartets on the streets to medieval music in the Square on instruments I could not begin to name, to classical concerts in just about every church in the city.
This medieval band(?) were playing very interesting music... I also liked the curly-toed shoes.... They must have been very hot in their "leathers"...




There are numerous "characters" for you to pose with for photos. One day we saw a large Hare Krishna procession with music and dancing, with followers pulling a huge float with ropes. I've lost count of how many newly married couples we have seen (all Russian, apparently.) And I should not forget the 27 white crosses which mark the spot where 27 Protestant Leaders were beheaded in 1621 after rebelling against the Catholic Hapsburgs. Yes, its a hub of activity and things to see. Laura's classes have been just off this square all week in a building which is part of NYU. I'm not sure how they've been able to concentrate with all the "goings-on" right outside their windows.... (her course has gone very well, by the way, and her assignment is done.)







The narrow Melantrichova Street, leading from the bottom of Wenceslas Square into Old Town Square, is an experience in itself, always clogged with tourists each time I've passed through (and each time I swear there are things which were not there before. Your senses are on overload here- you cannot possibly take it all in...there is so much to see..) It passes Havelská Market where open air stalls sell fresh produce, fresh flowers and handcrafts along with the typical tourist souvenirs. The roses are so beautiful and so cheap compared to home... I'm quite sure the shown price is per rose- about $0.60. Two things that are "big" here are puppets and wooden toys.




The Old Town Hall and Clock Tower sit amidst all this noisy activity, surveying the admiring onlookers from around the world. The Old Town Hall was established in 1338; its tower at 228 feet offers spectacular views over the city. I won't tell you how long I stood in line to see those views, but it was worth it once I was there... I also enjoyed lunch at a rooftop café one day affording me a wonderful view of the Old Town Hall, Clock Tower and Týn Church.

I'll finish off with a few shots taken from the top of the tower, over the city. Of course in each direction there is a new view, each beautiful in its own way. All rooftops are red tile, no shingles here. The variety in the shapes and sizes of spires, towers and domes is impressive and Prague is known for its skyline of spires. From the Gothic and Neo-Gothic spires that soar skywards to the onion-shaped domes and rounded cupolas, each is striking... I think a student of architecture could be happy in this city for a long while...

Looking down on where narrow Melantrichova Street empties into the Square (between blue bldg. and beige, just left of centre)
Looking towards Petrin Hill Park, our hotel is at base of hill, left of photo centre
Looking towards Prague Castle and St.Vitus Cathedral in distance
Looking down on Church of St. Nicholas, now a Czech Hussite Church 
Love the facades of these three. Yellow bldg. houses Ministry of Local Development
Dark tower on left is Powder Tower, one of original gates into the city. Modern tower on skyline (right) is Žižkov tower, erected by Communists not just to broadcast Czech TV but also to jam Western signals
I just love these Gothic spires.. shades of Disney... I keep expecting to see Cruella DeVille come sweeping out the door...
Peace,
Linda

"Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs." ~ Susan Sontag

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Prague by Night

Taken from most Legii (Legii Bridge) looking towards Karlův most (Charles Bridge)
Paddleboats on the Vltava, seen from Legii Bridge
At the end of my time with Ivan on the Photo Tour, he arranged for me to rent a tripod for the night from his favourite camera shop (what a sweetheart he was.) I have never done much night photography, but I figured with the castle and the Charles Bridge, here was as good a place as any to give it a shot. Here are a few of  the best shots... as you can see, central Prague is on both sides of the Vltava (pronounced Vul-tava) River. (Many people assume it's on the Danube - wrong!) The full moon on Monday night was so beautiful, but of course you cannot choose which part of the sky it will be in- my preference would have been for it to be over the castle, but of course it was in the opposite direction. But, moon or no moon, I still am pleased with what I got. If I had had the energy or my own car, I would have been down at the other end of the city, but I just couldn't walk any further. As it was I probably did at least 4 more kms. after dark, on top of the full day of walking with Ivan.. I was beat!


Looking towards Old Town and Old Town Bridge Tower
I have to say, Prague seems to be a very safe city. I have not felt unsafe or "uncomfortable" once. Even walking alone at night has not been a problem. There are many people out on the streets at night- reminds me of Times Square almost- as many people out after dark as there are in the daylight hours. I feel very safe. I'm sure there are areas where one would not go, but in central Prague where we are - no problem. There are many, many, many tourists, and just as many Czechs!  Prague appears to be somewhat of a destination for the young people - lots of European kids come here to party, it seems. Drinking beer or liquor on the streets is legal, and it is common. Unfortunately many do not have the sense to take their empty bottles home with them, leaving them littering the sidewalks.
Full Moon over Paddleboat Marina

One of the very popular things to do on the river is to rent a rowboat or a paddleboat for an hour or two. You can see many of these on the river as well as the river cruise boats (again- these are not the big Danube River Cruise boats - these are hourly cruises, or dinner cruises. So between the boats large and small, and the birds (ducks, swans and gulls) there's lots of activity/entertainment to watch.

The photos in this post were all taken over a stretch of about 2 hours from
Sunset at Pražský Hrad - Prague Castle

dusk around 9ish til dark - it was after 11 when I got back to the hotel. The moon was full and so was the Charles Bridge! THE thing to do in Prague at night is to stroll the bridge, with your lover, your family, or whoever... I was strolling it with my tripod and camera, having fun "people-watching"! There are always sights to be seen - even after dark!!
I am trying very hard to be a "traveller", not a tourist (see quote below). I am so tired of overhearing tourists complain about how something is not like at home.... why
 Night falls over Prague Castle
Old Town Bridge Tower after dark
the heck do they travel if they expect it to be just like at home?? I am doing my best to soak it all up- the sights, the sounds, the smells, the atmosphere...  The Czechs are lovely people, very friendly and willing to help if they can. Most younger Czechs speak decent English, although they always say when asked - "Only a little"...then they speak well and can usually answer your question. I am wearing a small Canadian flag pin... it's amazing what a difference it makes. Things haven't changed much in that regard since I last travelled in Europe in the 80's....
I love hearing all the languages spoken on the street - there are so many. Of course I cannot distinguish the Slav languages- they all sound the same to me.. there is also a fair bit of Russian, German, some French, Spanish, Italian,  and of course, the Americans, Brits, Aussies, Scots, and many others I cannot identify. In many ways I envy the Europeans who have a totally different attitude to being bi- tri- or multi-lingual....

Little Quarter Bridge Tower
















Looking towards neo-Renaissance National Theatre, completed in 1883.















Praha nightfall



Peace,
Linda

"Please be a traveller, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what's right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in." ~ Andrew Zimmern

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Prague Photo Tour Favs..continued

Here are a few more of my favourite shots taken yesterday with Ivan..  In no particular order.... Which one is your favourite?

Lamp with a view....
Reflections in a pool of water
Down, down, down into the Subway
You do see some strange things here....
The view over the Vltava River from Letna Park
Making Trdelnik (a sugared pastry) in Old Town Square
The subway again...
Spiral Staircase


So, what do you think? See anything you like?

Peace,
Linda

"To travel is to take a journey into yourself." ~ Danny Kaye

Prague Day 4 - Photo Tour!

Following is yesterday's post which I could not get to publish last night. Sometimes it's impossible to get things to upload; sporadic at best....  Frustrating... And it's not much better tonight, so I'll cut this short and add more photos to another post....

The Loreto
Today was an awesome day! Hot and sunny! The day all to myself to do something special for ME! This was MY TREAT day! I treated myself to a Prague Photography Tour with a pro. ( arranged, booked and paid for before I left home.) Ivan met me in my hotel lobby this morning and we headed out at 9:30, first up to the Prague Castle area. We walked pretty much non-stop for six hours at which point I was fading and my feet were telling me Enough! We wandered the Castle area, top to bottom, over and up (steep climb!!) to Letna Park for an amazing view over the river and city, across the river to the Jewish quarter and Old Town, and finishing off in Wenceslas Square area. Whew! I was feeling the sun by then, but what a great day! Ivan was wonderful, answering any photography questions I had, helping me compose or see better shots and showing me things the average tourist would never see or find. We were in a number of churches and other spots I might not have ventured into myself . So today - a break from the history! (Someone told me I was writing too much about history and not enough about myself.) So..this isn't really about myself per se, but it is about photography - one of my great loves. So here are a few of my favourite shots taken today, these are all from Hradčany - the Castle area. (One thing I asked Ivan to help me with was photographing interiors...)
No background, no history, no commentary- just enjoy the photography. As I did... Thanks Ivan for a wonderful photo adventure!!
In Strahov Monastery Brewery

Strahov Monastery Library

Pattern on wall of Schwarzenberg Palace

Soaring Chancel Vault of St.Vitus Cathedral

Changing of the Guard at Castle

One of many beautiful stained glass windows at ST.Vitus
Peace,
Linda

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." ~ Marcel Proust
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